The Day We Almost Died. Seat Belts and Car Seats SAVE LIVES!
If I weren’t already a vocal car seat advocate, I am even more so now. Car seats save lives. I know, because Little One’s car seat saved her life.
It was a regular Saturday afternoon and the sun was shining. Birds were chirping and all was right in the world. One would think that Spring had arrived (despite the mountains of snow and puddles of slush that remained). I had Little One strapped into her car seat and we were happily chatting when I hit a patch of slush and hydroplaned. I was driving the speed limit and didn’t think slush would be a problem, but we fish tailed all over the highway, went off the road, and flipped the van. As my van rolled over, I thought, “Oh, God. This is it. We’re going to die.”
Image source found here.
When the vehicle stopped rolling, I opened my eyes and everything was still and quiet. It was so peaceful. I thought, “Holy sh*t! Are we dead??”
My main concern was for my daughter. It’s odd, but in those brief seconds of the world turning around on us, I thought, “Thank goodness she is in her 5-point harness! Thank goodness she’s still in a car seat and not in a booster!”
I remember the van swerving across the highway and off the road. I remember closing my eyes as the van flipped over and landed on all four tires. I remember turning around and asking my daughter if she was okay. My tiny five year old was just sitting quietly in her car seat.
“Mama! Are you okay? Are you okay, Mama?!”, she asked.
Crazy how my five year old was the one asking me if I was okay. I reached in my pocket for my cell phone and dialed 911. Funny, usually I have my BlackBerry on the passenger seat, but stuck it in my pocket this time. If my phone had been on the seat, I likely wouldn’t have been able to find it in the mess that was now my van. So many objects had flown all over the place. I’m surprised Little One and I didn’t get hit in the head with a flying object.
I called 911. I called Hubby. Hubby arrived, followed soon after by two fire trucks (firefighters/first responders). Shortly after that, two police cruisers arrived. Moments later, the paramedics showed up.
When Little One was being assessed, she was asked if she was okay and if she was scared. Her response was, “It was COOL! I was hanging upside down like a bat!!!!”
Amazing how she walked away with no injuries.
I was shaken and didn’t feel any severe pain at first. I refused to have a collar put on me and told the paramedics there was no need for them to take me to the hospital. It was only an hour or two after the accident that I started to experience pain. A trip to the hospital and a few x-rays on my C7 vertebrae, shoulders and ribs, and I was prescribed pain meds and anti-inflammatory meds.
This was no doubt the scariest experience I have ever had. I did take away a few lessons though…
Car Seats Save Lives
Little One is 5 years old, and we have been pressured by others telling us that “she should be in a booster by now” and “people will make fun of her because she is still in a car seat”. Being a firm believer in the idea that car seats save lives, I actually don’t care what other people think. The fact is that Little One is TOO SMALL to be in a booster. End of story. She only weighs 33 lbs and does not meet the height or weight requirements for her to be moved into a booster. “It’s not cool to be in a car seat”. You know what’s not cool? Having to pick your child off of your dashboard or windshield. Sorry to be graphic, but the reality is that if your kids aren’t strapped in properly, they can fly out of their seats! THAT is scary! The fact that Little One was still in a car seat and still in a 5-point harness makes me feel so relieved. I knew that her Britax Frontier XT was safe and had read numerous reviews and checked out ratings. I am so thankful that Little One was strapped into her Britax. I am a huge fan of the 5 point harness even if she is five years old!
Watch out for Flying Objects
My friend, Wendy talks about car seat safety often and I love that she shares valuable information with her readers. She is also a car seat technician and my “go-to” person when it comes to car seats and car seat safety. One particular post that stuck in my mind was the one where she mentioned how every day items in your vehicle can be flying items in a collision. Her post challenged readers to think carefully about what items we put in our vehicles and how they can potentially injure us in a collision.
Any loose objects could do harm.
We learned this from our recent accident. I thought I had everything safely tucked away and out of harm’s way. I had extra Winter coats, hats, mitts on the back seat. I also had a container of windshield washer fluid, a box of tissue, a few toys, books, crayons, snacks, water bottles and CDs in the van. Hubby had stored some tools “securely” in a spot where they couldn’t be budged. However, in the process of the van flipping over, ALL loose items were displaced and I count my lucky stars that Little One (or I) didn’t get hit in the head with any of the objects. The scary thing was that when the first response team came to assist us, they saw a heavy WRENCH right beside Little One’s car seat! Could you imagine if that hit her in the head? I was so scared and felt so ill just thinking of the “what ifs”.
Exercise extra caution in the changing of seasons
Perhaps I had let my guard down and underestimated the dangers of the slushy roads. With Winter finally feeling like it might soon be over, I was driving the speed limit. The speed limit is 80 on our highway, but when the weather is bad, I drive way under the limit. The day of our accident was gorgeous out. With the snow and ice turning to slush, I didn’t even think about how dangerous slush could be! Once I lost control of the vehicle, I couldn’t regain control or correct our course.
It makes sense, but many of us forget that the change of seasons means we need to change our driving habits.
- The Fall season is a dangerous time for vehicle crashes with animals. The majority of car accidents involve deer.
- Mating time for deer and a time for animals to find food and shelter for the upcoming Winter means we need to slow down and stay alert whenever we’re on the road.
- Slowing down and staying alert also helps us avoid animals that seem to appear out of nowhere (yes, sometimes even during daylight hours).
- Early morning and late afternoon glare can play optical tricks even on the most careful drivers. The worst time for this is the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset. I experience this often when driving on the Island. You can literally be blinded by the sun. What should you do? Slow down and increase your following distance; keep your windshield clean and the washer fluid reservoir full. Also, having your headlights on helps make your vehicle more visible to others.
- Slippery when wet! Great album by Bon Jovi, but also true when driving! Intense rain storms and slippery road conditions can happen quickly in the Spring and early Fall. The first few minutes
of rainfall on dry pavement are particularly dangerous.
- Oil, dust, dirt and other debris collect on the roadways and, when mixed with moisture, the roads can become as slick as ice. Heavy rains create
pools of water, compromising driving control and causing hydroplaning and loss of clear vision. Check your wipers before encountering heavy rains; know
which areas along your trip might be affected by rain; be cautious when driving into standing water, especially when the depth is difficult to determine; be aware of the change in braking efficiency after driving through standing water; and increase your following distance and decrease your speed.
Another thing to remember if you’ve been in an auto accident is that car seats need to be replaced if you’ve had a car crash.
I know that I need to get behind the wheel again soon (as soon as we get a new vehicle and a new car seat for Little One), but 1) I’m still in shock and in pain from the accident and 2) I kind of have a phobia of driving in poor road conditions now. The thought of anything happening to my sweet Little One is too much to bear. What a scary experience.
Incredible how a near death experience can make you re-evaluate everything in your life and think about what matters the most to you. I’ll be giving my Little One extra hugs and kisses today and every day.
Now we’re on the on the hunt for a new vehicle and need to get Little One a new car seat. I’m definitely getting her another Britax. I think we’ll be getting her a Britax CT.
Any recommendations on a good family vehicle? It needs to be something spacious, a bit high off the ground (Little One and I both get car sick in low vehicles), and it has to be something good on mileage.
I don’t want to sound like an after school special, but car seats save lives. They really do.